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Meet Tesla's Connected Car...

I just did (last night) and my stomach is still churning. I should have known something was up when the Tesla rep sitting next...

4 Minutes Read

I just did (last night) and my stomach is still churning. I should have known something was up when the Tesla rep sitting next to me asked “would you like me to switch the car to insane mode or sport mode Euan?” This was a serious question and a quick swipe on the oversized tablet integrated into the dashboard and we were ready to go. I opted for “insane” of course and I have to say it lived up to its description. The car shot up the road as I squeezed the accelerator (0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds) with the same torque as a McLaren. The motorbike and the car sat next to me at the traffic lights were left standing. If this is the future of the smart, connected car then I really, really want one.

My Tesla Model S test drive came on the back of a visit to Antwerp in Belgium to speak at a CIO event. My role was to show-case Center for the Future of Work’s new research around robots and process digitization technologies (more later). I shared the stage with IBM and its vision for Watson and then Tesla came on to the stage. This was a big deal for me because Tesla Motors has just been voted THE world’s most innovative company by Forbes after a phenomenal 12 month sales growth pegged at 52%, and an innovation premium set at 85%. One question the Tesla presenter pointedly asked the audience is how do large, legacy companies stay innovative when new ideas and concepts are literally bursting through? The answer for Tesla is through an extremely flat organization.

What the Tesla presentation confirmed was the company future rests on how well it marshals proprietary and 3rd party data across its business and beyond. Tesla cars generate reams of data. Tons of it. Each car offers 4G connectivity via a SIM card buried under the hood. Yes, it’s our personal data but you can bet Tesla are collecting, sorting, storing, analyzing and co-opting it with other data sources and figuring out how to make meaning from it. And this goes way beyond predicting what sort of music you want to listen to on your commute because Spotify can do that better than anyone. Tesla is designing its cars for the future with sensors, data, the driver experience and the wider IoT in mind. View this in the context of smarter cities to understand the bigger prize and look to Spain and Santander to see the bleeding edge of smart city development. It’s not far away at all.

The much vaunted Tesla business model may have to change as it looks to scale however. Tesla owns the “stack” from design, manufacturing through to sales and service. They keep a tight hold on the customer experience at the point of sale while other car manufacturers sell through a dealer network or use a franchise model. Owning the sales channel means Tesla owns the customer buying experience with no conflict of interest or other brands to worry about. Customers only deal with Tesla employed sales and service staff. But if they want to scale—and they do—the model will need to shift. On stage and the presenter revealed that “next year or the year after” will see the firm release a mass-market model priced in around the €50K to €60K range. However, to see the vision of connected car, then I’m with Forbes. Tesla does feel like the world’s most innovative company.

OK. Get ready for the sales pitch. The drive was stunning. The car is battery powered and has only twenty one moving parts (wheels included) so the engine doesn’t need to hit revs before it reaches warp factor 1—you just hit the pedal and it’s like cracking a whip. The power reaches each wheel independently and adjusts minutely to the driving conditions found under each tyre. The engine is the size of a watermelon (seriously) and takes 20 minutes charge to get to 50%. Did I mention the acceleration is just a shade of a McLaren F1 car? Book a test drive here to see what a smart car could really feel like...

PS. Very impressed with Antwerp and look forward to returning. Check out the walking tunnel under the Scheldt for a fix of Stanley Kubrick...


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